KARACHI: A fierce battle for supremacy will begin on Sunday (today) when the National One-day Cup for Regions explodes into action in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The event will be played on the same format on which the National One-day Cup for Departments was conducted recently here at different venues which ultimately ended with a splendid victory from Habib Bank Limited (HBL).
In the regional event which will conclude on January 27, the country’s major cities Karachi and Lahore have two teams each while Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Peshawar are the other outfits of the slots.
Four leading sides, in the end, will qualify for the semi-finals after a single league engagement.
The matches will begin at 9:30am.
Every outfit, as per the rules, can play maximum four guest players. And some top and experienced cricketers who are not part of the Pakistan side currently busy in the series against Australia will also be seen in action.
Islamabad, last year, had shared the trophy with National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) when the final could not be held due to rain.
However, various team sources said that the weather was not ideal for cricket in Punjab.
“I don’t think it is an ideal weather for cricket here,” a team source told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
“For the last four days, it rained here. Now the weather is good but definitely it may create problems for the teams during the tournament,” the source said.
Sources said that in winter Karachi is the ideal centre for such competitions.
Out of 31 matches, seven outings of the league round, the two semi-finals and the final will be telecast live.
The semi-finals will be conducted on January 23 and 24, followed by the final on January 27, at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
In the first round outing on Sunday (today), Karachi Blues face Karachi Whites at the KRL Stadium, Rawalpindi. Karachi Blues are a balanced side, which contain some fine players including skipper Khalid Latif, Fawad Alam, Test discard Mohammad Sami, Test pacer Sohail Khan, Khurram Manzoor and left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar who recently toured Australia but was not given a chance in the Test series which Pakistan lost 3-0. Azam Khan is the coach of Karachi Blues.
Karachi Whites, who are being coached by former left-arm international pacer Salim Jaffar, have international all-rounder Anwar Ali, Akbar-ur-Rehman, highly-experienced first-class cricketer Tariq Haroon, dashing Shahzaib Hasan, Tabish Khan and wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Hasan.
In the other game of the day, at the Diamond Club Ground, Islamabad, holders Islamabad will take on Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi, being led by Pakistan all-rounder Sohail Tanvir, seem a solid side. Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan’s out-of-favour hard-hitting batsman Sohaib Maqsood, Yasir Hameed, Sadaf Hussain, Naved Malik and Umar Waheed are some of the main players of the side being coached by Sabih Azhar.
Test opener Ahmed Shehzad, who recently guided HBL to a title victory in the departmental event by scoring over 600 runs, is part of Islamabad as a guest player. Islamabad also have Test opener Shan Masood, Shahid Yousuf, Abid Ali and Naeemuddin.
Meanwhile, Peshawar lock horns with FATA at the Pindi Stadium, Rawalpindi. The game will be telecast live. Test cricketer Iftikhar Ahmed and Test pacer Junaid Khan will also represent Peshawar. Pacer Imran Khan Senior is also part of the side but will join the team after returning from Australia.
FATA, also a first-class side, have also been made strong as they will have in their ranks international all-rounder Hammad Azam, leg-spinner Mansoor Amjad and hard-hitting all-rounder Bilal Asif. The trio will play as guest players.
At the Marghzar Ground, Islamabad, Lahore Whites meet Lahore Blues. Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, Test stumper Kamran Akmal, left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar and left-arm pacer Zia-ul-Haq make Lahore Blues.
Both Kamran and Salman are in terrific form and the duo recently played a key role in WAPDA’s achievements both in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and One-day Cup. Although WAPDA won the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, they fell in the semi-finals of the One-day Cup.
Solid opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq, wicket-keeper batsman Umar Siddiq, in-form Usman Salahuddin, spinner Adnan Rasool and fast bowler Umaid Asif constitute Lahore Whites.
In the event, four matches will also be held at the Arbab Niaz Stadium, Peshawar.
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